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p01 wildeyThe historic Wildey Theater in downtown Edwardsville.

    EDWARDSVILLE — Business is sunny ahead, judging from a forecast laid down by city officials.
    Construction values are up, an economic development website is being debuted and more importantly a couple of major projects are in the works that bode well for the coming year.
    One of the projects is a 40,000-square-foot, multiple-story, office building targeted for the Interstate 55 corridor near Hortica. The other is a development for Gateway Commerce Center, along Illinois 255. At press time both were subject of confidentiality agreements and not quite ready to announce.
    The Gateway project has the potential of up to 1,500 jobs, Mayor Hal Patton said.
    City officials sat down with the Illinois Business Journal to talk about progress in conjunction with the second annual Business Forecast Breakfast held Feb. 2.
    The new projects, if they occur, will add to the building boom that’s been underway. New figures show that Edwardsville enjoyed $92.57 million in construction investment in 2015, up from $42.86 million in 2013 and $67.52 million in 2014.
    Of the 2015 amount, $70.81 million was commercial; $15.59 million was in single-family development; and $6.17 million was additions and remodeling.
    “We had 51 new housing starts last year,” said Walter Williams, the city’s director of  economic and community development. Most of those were represented by subdivision growth along Governors’ Parkway.
    Two of the largest commercial projects are Planet Fitness, valued at $8 million and the new Park Street Plaza, valued at $9 million.
    “We have $15 million to $20 million of prospects that we’re working on that will come to fruition this year,” Williams said. “No announcements have been made. If the rug is not pulled out from underneath us, we anticipate numbers for 2016 to be equal to or greater than 2015.”
    Neither the planned development of the Madison Mutual property along Route 157 nor further investment around the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities on Main Street is figured in to those prospects, Patton said.
    Big things in the works, include:
    - the new joint police/fire complex on South Main, along with the Spay & Play Park next to it
    - the new fire station being built by the water tower at SIUE.
    - and the new 70-acre Plummer Family sports park along Governors’ Parkway.

    What is going on at the Wildey Theater in Downtown Edwardsville?
    Last December, a screening of the 2003 Christmas movie, “Elf,” sold out. A second showing was quickly arranged for the next day and it drew 225 people.
    In January, the Grateful Dead cover band, Jake’s Leg, played to a sold-out audience.
    As of this writing, only a few tickets remain for Zydeco Crawdaddys, Judy Collins and Dueling Pianos.
    It was just a few years ago that many acts drew embarrassingly small audiences and some movies were shown with no one in the theater at all.
    That all changed two years ago when Al Canal took over as general manager and talent buyer at the Wildey. Canal has an extensive history in the entertainment business. He started as a standup comic about 35 years ago touring the country, then moved over to the management side of the business running comedy clubs. Prior to coming to the Wildey, he was working for a company that owned comedy clubs around the country. His job was essentially a comedy club doctor. He would work with new clubs to help them get off on the right foot and tackle unsuccessful clubs, figure out what was wrong and turn them around.
    What was wrong with the Wildey?
    “The previous city administration operated under the theory that they should have something booked almost every day,” Canal said. “That’s a mistake. You don’t book something just to have something. It kills attendance. My first year here we had 22 percent fewer major events but overall attendance was up 25 percent.
    “When you book something you need to ask two questions,” Canal said, “why should I book this? and 2) how am I going to market it? If you don’t know the answer to the second question, don’t book it. It doesn’t matter what you have. If you don’t market it correctly, it’s not going to work. At a place like the Wildey, you have to do two types of marketing. You have to market the venue and you have to market the acts.”
    Canal said that marketing used to be much simpler. Radio, television and newspapers did the trick. Now there are so many more avenues and the audiences are so different, you have to tailor the marketing plan to the audience. The Wildey uses its website, Canal said, and has an email list of about 12,000, but he also uses social media like Facebook and Twitter.
    “We track results so we know what works and what doesn’t,” Canal said. “You have to think about the type of people who would come to a particular show. What are their lifestyles and how to reach out to them? If we have something that appeals to an older demographic, newspapers are great. If it’s a show for young people, you have to go with social media.”
    To understand what acts will draw an audience and what type of audience they’ll draw, Canal looks at the performer’s history at other venues similar to the Wildey.

    State leaders hope 2016 is the year they finally get a handle on metal theft, a nagging crime they’d like to scrap once and for all.
    A state task force has begun looking into the problem and is due to report back to legislators this fall. But group members won’t wait that long if they have something to say before then.
    “The report is due at the end of October to the General Assembly, but if something comes up before that, that we think can make an immediate difference we’ll do that,” said p01 hoffmanHoffmanJay Hoffman, D-Swansea. “If there are some ideas that can be done legislatively now, we’ll agree on them.”
    Last year, Hoffman sponsored House Bill 330 to create the Recyclable Metal Task Force. The measure struck an unusual, unanimous chord with fellow legislators who also had been hearing from constituents and businesses about the problem of thieves stealing copper and other metal for scrap. The governor signed the bill into law, effective the first of the year, and the first meeting of the task force quickly followed.
    The law calls for a task force consisting of designees from the Legislature, the Secretary of State, the State Police, recyclable metal dealers, rural electric cooperatives, homeowners’ insurance companies, scrap metal suppliers and chiefs of police from throughout the state.
    Hoffman said the task force will assist in the development of regional metal theft task forces.
    In their first meeting, task force members chose Hoffman and state Rep. Michael Unes, R-East Peoria, as co-chairmen.
    “This should not be a partisan issue; it should be above that,” Hoffman said.
    The Secretary of State and Illinois State Police both had representatives at the first meeting and both had input.
    “The Secretary of State’s Office, through their scrap metals audit division, has begun to do audits of businesses to make sure they are not marketing in stolen property,” Hoffman said.
    The task force unites legislators, law enforcement and business leaders on a common concern.
    Sporadic efforts, including some in and around Madison County, have targeted the metal theft problem, but until now there really hasn’t been a statewide effort that’s also looked at the best practices of other states, Hoffman said.
    “But if you talk to people in the utility industry you can see it’s still an enormous problem that has consistently depended on the prices of copper or other metal. The higher the price, the more theft occurs,” he said. “I’m told that it’s gotten a bit better lately because the prices have been down, but I don’t think that’s a reason to celebrate.”
    Hoffman said one or two incidents led to the proposal in the legislature.
    “Less than a year ago, a strip mall in Fairview Heights had four or five air-conditioning units that were completely stripped in one night, truly costing tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.

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conroy jayneConroy    NEW YORK – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest mass torts firms, has announce that firm shareholder and co-founder Jayne Conroy has been appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the pending multidistrict litigation (MDL) against Volkswagen A.G. over its emissions scandal.
    U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California announced the committee appointments in an order dated Jan. 21, 2016.
    The MDL (No. 2672, In Re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices, And Products Liability Litigation) assigned to Judge Breyer includes more than 500 class action lawsuits filed by Volkswagen consumers in 60 federal courts. Volkswagen is being sued for its U.S. sales of vehicles manufactured by its affiliates Volkswagen AG and Audi AG that purposefully and intentionally breached U.S. laws and Environmental Protection Agency rules and regulations.
    Simmons Hanly Conroy filed its first class action lawsuits involving the Volkswagen emissions scandal in late September 2015 on behalf of its clients throughout the country.
    “Our clients and hundreds of other Volkswagen vehicle owners nationwide have suffered significant losses by purchasing these affected vehicles, which they would not have done if they were aware that the vehicles emit 40 times the federally allowed levels of pollution,” Conroy said. “The far-reaching consequences of Volkswagen’s fraudulent and deceptive practices extend to the devaluation of those vehicles due to their decrease in performance and efficiency.”
    With more than 30 years of experience as a strategist, trial lawyer and negotiator, Conroy serves or has served as a member of Plaintiffs’ Steering or Executive Committees in nearly a dozen multidistrict pharmaceutical litigations. She also was a leader in the litigation against Toyota over its 2009 and 2010 recalls of more than 2.3 million vehicles due to serious injuries involving incidents of sudden unintended acceleration.
    Since 2006, Conroy is credited with orchestrating the settlements of thousands of pharmaceutical cases for a total recovery for Simmons Hanly Conroy’s clients that approaches $500 million. Conroy currently represents several thousand plaintiffs who were injured by various dangerous drugs, as well as plaintiffs who were injured by medical devices such as DePuy artificial hips and pelvic repair system materials.  
    Conroy also has represented several thousand victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy in a multidistrict action against the financial sponsors of terrorism. In a separate set of negligence litigations against the airlines and airport security companies on behalf of 50 families who lost their loved ones on the four 9/11 aircraft, Conroy helped forge settlements that totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
    In addition to her law practice, Conroy is nationally renowned as a speaker on trial advocacy and regularly sits on panels of experts at national litigation conferences.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
    Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.